Listening to Your Inner Guidance
In April 2009, Colleen was diagnosed with Stage 2 Hodgkin's Lymphoma about ten months after the birth of her son. At that time, she was under the care of Dr. Michael Theodorakis. After six rounds of ABVD chemotherapy— a combination of doxorubicin (Adriamycin), bleomycin, vinblastine (Velbe), and dacarbazine (DTIC)—Colleen was in complete remission.
Twelve years later, the cancer recurred, and Colleen was diagnosed with Stage 2 Hodgkin's Lymphoma on February 14th, 2022, for a second time.
"I was extremely disturbed that the cancer returned," Colleen says. "I assumed I would undergo the same treatment as the first time, but that was not true. Chemotherapy has evolved, as well as the treatment protocol."
Colleen's oncologist, Dr. George Cyriac from New York Cancer & Blood Specialists (NYCBS), delved into her treatment options, contemplating a bone marrow transplant and chemotherapy. However, Dr. Cyriac ultimately referred her to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, exploring the possibility of her participation in a Phase II Study of Second-line Pembrolizumab plus GVD for relapsed or refractory Hodgkin Lymphoma.
Unlike her first experience battling cancer and receiving her chemotherapy through a port-a-cath, this time around, the chemotherapy was administered by IV. She had experienced symptoms of swollen veins, joint pain, mouth irritation, and some hair loss. However, remedies like Biotene, Tylenol, and the help of an acupuncturist helped remedy these issues.
"Through the clinical trial treatments, I experienced early success," says Colleen. Two months and two cycles after the 17-cycle treatments, all cancer symptoms and signs vanished, leaving no detectable traces within her body. Colleen was declared cancer-free. She was encouraged to continue with the study but declined. Colleen continues regular follow-ups with Dr. Cyriac and has been keeping well these days.
Colleen's family has been crucial throughout her healing and survivorship. "They helped me stay focused on my goal to keep a positive mindset and be active in my recovery," she said. With NYCBS being so close to home, Colleen was able to have the best of both worlds: the support of her loved ones and world-class cancer care. "NYCBS is an excellent choice for cancer care right here in my own backyard," she said, grateful for the convenience and quality of care she received.
When it comes to making important life decisions, Colleen has learned to trust her instincts. "You know yourself better than anyone else," she says.
Colleen encourages others to advocate for themselves, ask questions, and speak up for the care they need.